King Ahab and his wife, Jezebel, have led the northern kingdom (Israel) to worship the false god, Baal. They have instituted places of worship for Baal, appointed 450 prophets of Baal, and have put to death all the prophets of the LORD that they could find. Baal is supposed to be a god of fertility, having control over the weather. Elijah, God’s prophet, was sent to confront Ahab and tell him that there would be a drought in the land until the LORD releases the rain. Baal will be powerless to do anything about it.
Later on, in the third year of the drought, the LORD said to Elijah, "Go and present yourself to King Ahab. Tell him that I will soon send rain!" (1 Kings 18:1 NLT)
It may seem that Elijah’s job is about to get easier, but it’s not. His call from the LORD is to confront Ahab much in the same way Moses confronted Pharaoh.
So Ahab summoned all the people of Israel and the prophets to Mount Carmel. Then Elijah stood in front of them and said, "How much longer will you waver, hobbling between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow Him! But if Baal is God, then follow him!" But the people were completely silent. (1 Kings 18:20-21 NLT)
God will perform a miracle to prove that they are worshiping a false god before releasing the rain. The miraculous sign will be big, and obvious, and in front of a large crowd.
Now bring two bulls. The prophets of Baal may choose whichever one they wish and cut it into pieces and lay it on the wood of their altar, but without setting fire to it. I will prepare the other bull and lay it on the wood on the altar, but not set fire to it. Then call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the LORD. The god who answers by setting fire to the wood is the true God!" And all the people agreed.
(1 Kings 18:23-24 NLT)
The prophets of Baal (all 450 of them) went first. They set up the altar and the sacrifice. They began dancing around, calling out, cutting themselves, and worshipping in they way the would worship Baal. Nothing happened.
About noontime Elijah began mocking them. "You'll have to shout louder," he scoffed, "for surely he is a god! Perhaps he is daydreaming, or is relieving himself. Or maybe he is away on a trip, or is asleep and needs to be wakened!" So they shouted louder, and following their normal custom, they cut themselves with knives and swords until the blood gushed out. They raved all afternoon until the time of the evening sacrifice, but still there was no sound, no reply, no response.
(1 Kings 18:27-29 NLT)
Then it was Elijah’s turn. He dug a trench around his altar and sacrifice. Then he instructed the people to fill four large jars with water and to pour the water over the offering and the wood. He instructed them to do this three times and they did. The water soaked the sacrifice, the wood, and filled the trench around the altar. Then Elijah began to pray:
O LORD, answer me! Answer me so these people will know that You, O LORD, are God and that You have brought them back to Yourself." Immediately the fire of the LORD flashed down from heaven and burned up the young bull, the wood, the stones, and the dust. It even licked up all the water in the trench! And when all the people saw it, they fell face down on the ground and cried out, "The LORD--He is God! Yes, the LORD is God!" (1 Kings 18:37-39 NLT)
Then the LORD instructed Elijah to put the prophets of Baal to death – all 450 of them. Elijah did as the LORD commanded him.
Then Elijah said to Ahab, "Go get something to eat and drink, for I hear a mighty rainstorm coming!" (1 Kings 18:41 NLT)
We do need to be witnesses to the goodness, the power, and the love of God. We don’t need to try to do it with our own plans or in our own power. Moses was effective in setting the Israelites free because of God’s power – not his own. Elijah was effective in proving that Baal is a false god because of the LORD’s power – not his own. The same is true for us today.
Then Elijah shouted, "Hurry to Ahab and tell him, 'Climb into your chariot and go back home. If you don't hurry, the rain will stop you!'" And soon the sky was black with clouds. A heavy wind brought a terrific rainstorm, and Ahab left quickly for Jezreel. Then the LORD gave special strength to Elijah. He tucked his cloak into his belt and ran ahead of Ahab's chariot all the way to the entrance of Jezreel. (1 Kings 18:44b-46 NLT)
How about you? Do you witness to the goodness, the power, and the love of God to others? Does it wear you out? Are you trying to do it with your own plan and in your own power? Or, are you doing your part of His plan, working in the power of God?